Contributors: Safiullah Junejo, Kante Hamed | Editor: Supriyono
The Faculty of Islamic Studies at the Universitas Islam Internasional Indonesia (UIII) held a public lecture on May 4, 2023, with the topic "Muslims and Non-Muslims Relationship in History" inviting Dr. Ari M. Gordon, the Director of U.S. Muslim-Jewish Relations at AJC Global, a leading international Jewish advocacy organization.
Dr. Gordon began his lecture by highlighting the similarities between Islam and Judaism, in which both religions share a belief in one God, prophets, and holy books. They also have a strong emphasis on charity and social justice, as well as a rich history of scholarship and intellectual inquiry.
In his explanation, Dr. Gordon also discussed the concept of qibla, which he argued has played an important role in the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, as it has been a symbol of unity and a reminder of the shared heritage of the Abrahamic faiths.
Using the Quran's verses that discuss relations between Muslims and non-Muslims as an example, he explained that in the past, Muslims and Jews prayed in the same direction. He cited a few verses from the surat Al Baqara that refer to the mosque in Al Aqsa as the Muslims' initial qibla.
In his lecture, Dr. Gordon also examined Muslim and Jewish cooperation in the past, particularly during the Golden Age of Spain, which lasted from the eighth through the fifteenth century. During this period, Muslims, Jews, and Christians coexisted in a state of largely peaceful coexistence and made contributions to the cultural, intellectual, and scientific advancements of the era.
For instance, Maimonides, a Jewish philosopher, studied Islamic philosophy and wrote in Arabic; meanwhile, Ibn Rushd, a Muslim philosopher, examined Jewish sources and made contributions to Jewish philosophy.
The talk also included information about Arabic, which Dr. Gordon described as "a street language and a language of the mind."
Further, to show how Muslims and Jews have worked together in the past to achieve objectives that are comparable to their own, Dr. Gordon cited numerous historical instances of cooperative collaboration, such as the Golden Age of Spain, when Jewish scholars significantly influenced the development of Islamic civilization.
However, Dr. Gordon also pointed out that tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims had appeared at various points throughout history. According to his justification, "a pluralistic and universalist approach is the most conducive to peaceful coexistence." He has examined the exclusivism, inclusivism, and "pluralism/universalism models of interfaith interactions."
Following his lecture, several attendees raised questions during the Q&A session. One inquiry examined the variables that have shaped the various kinds of interactions between Muslims and non-Muslims throughout history. Dr. Gordon pointed to the political, economic, and social aspects of these partnerships as well as disparities in religion and culture.
The growth of anti-Muslim sentiment in several regions of the world was the subject of another query. According to Dr. Gordon, this phenomenon is “a continuation of historical trends of prejudice and discrimination against minorities” rather than being a brand-new issue. He urged more interfaith conversation and understanding, as well as more education and awareness raising to address this problem.
Finally, Dr. Gordon spoke about the challenge of reconciling traditional Islamic teachings with modern values and institutions. He emphasized the need for dialogue and mutual understanding between different religious and cultural communities and argued that historical perspectives on Muslim/non-Muslim relations can inform these discussions.
The public lecture provided a valuable opportunity for attendees to learn about the complex relationship between Muslims and Jews. Dr. Gordon's insights and expertise shed light on the similarities and differences between the two religions, as well as the potential for collaboration and cooperation.
The event was a testament to the Faculty of Islamic Studies' commitment to promoting interfaith dialogue and understanding, and to building a more peaceful and tolerant world.